Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Social Network--a review

The Social Network (2010)


David Fincher


Aaron Sorkin

Based on

Bringing Down the House: The True Story of Six MIT Kids Who Took Vegas for Millions, by Ben Mezrich, and real life events


Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake


Drama, biography, historical


In 2003, Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg was dumped by his girlfriend. Some years later, he was the youngest billionaire in the world, being sued in two separate court cases over the website he invented, facebook. This is what happened in between.


I was looking forward to this film, not just because of the intriguing concept and story, but also--in fact, mainly--because of the screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, who is a master of his craft. As someone who has watched and can reenact numerous scenes and episodes from the first four seasons of The West Wing, who has The American President as one of his top five favorite movies, and who is one of the few people who remembers Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and wishes it hadn’t been cancelled, listening to the screenplay this man crafted was an incredibly enjoyable experience for me.

But let’s back up. Who is Aaron Sorkin, really? What does he do, and how did he exemplify his talent in this movie? Well, anyone who watched even a single episode of The West Wing (from the first four seasons, that is) knows that he is a master of fast-paced and witty dialogue. These characters are fast talkers, so much so that you know that these conversations were probably considerably less intellectually inspiring than Sorkin is making them out to be, and yet you literally do not care as you are watching.

This is basically a superficial aspect of his writing, however. What’s really happening in those lines of dialogue? When it comes to storytelling, Sorkin excels at two things: first, he enjoys stories that take place behind the scenes. Pretty much everything he’s written has taken place behind the scenes of something, and this is no different. We get a glimpse of the real people, flawed and human that they were, who were responsible for facebook becoming what it is. And second, he presents characters with both positive and negative attributes. Mark Zuckerberg is not an easy person to write a movie about, because he’s seen as a visionary by many, and an asshole by many more. It would be easy enough to lean either one way or the other with this, and this movie keeps it pretty even.

Part of that is due to the actor, of course, Jesse Eisenberg, who plays him as a fairly unlikeable and antisocial, and yet still sympathetic nerd. The point of this character is not that he be a good guy or a bad guy, but just . . . a guy. A smart kid who did some dumb things. The movie is, actually, not unlike other stories about people who were kind of looked down on, but had big ideas, started to make it big, and then sacrificed their principles to see the ideas get bigger.

But what makes this movie different is the fact this story is based on something that not only actually happened, but happened just a few years ago. Those of us who had facebook in its early years (and yes, I was one of them) remember the evolution of the idea. And this movie really does capture the early years of facebook, when facebook was “cool” and “facebook me” was a common phrase. It drops a lot of little things regarding the development of facebook, like the wall and newsfeed, and it’s fun to watch things develop that we watched happen. It also captures a lot of the college experience, positive and negative. Director David Fincher really does capture what those years were like for a lot of us who lived them, while still taking us on this somewhat heady ride of a kid who had an idea and made it big. For me, the most compelling moment of the film is when Zuckerberg is first sharing the idea with his friend. At other points, his motivation might be cryptic, but here, he is genuinely excited, not just about how huge this could be become, but just by the power of the idea.

This is a pretty dialogue-heavy show, of course, but what I noticed is that the dialogue is not where the heart of the story lies. So much of what is truly communicated in this story is not in the words, but in the silences, the glances that are exchanged, and the atmosphere this movie creates, all of which is a testament to brilliant directing and acting. Obviously there’s no suspense or tension in the court cases, but there’s not supposed to be. That’s just the vehicle for the story. I’ll admit I was a little lost in the first few minutes when we made our first jumps in time, but I got it after a while, and the story itself is easy enough to follow that you don’t really need to know exactly what happens when. Also, for all that it’s supposed to be a behind-the-scenes look at what happened, a lot of it is really left ambiguous. How truthful was Zuckerberg or any of the other characters really being? We don’t know. And the flashbacks don’t show us everything. But the point of this movie is not to expose the truth. The point is to show an evolution of an idea, and through that idea, the evolution of a character, and the sacrifices he will make, good and bad, to see that idea realized.

When this movie comes out on DVD, I would recommend you get yourself a copy. It is a must see for anyone who’s ever wanted to see an idea like this realized.

Worth Rating

Worth owning

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Favorites List (thus far)

It was requested of me that I post the full list of books for Favorite Books reviews somewhere, so here it is, as it currently stands:

Books I have reviewed:

1. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (TOP 5)
2. The Slave Dancer, by Paula Fox (NOT A FAVORITE)
3. A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
4. The A.I. Gang Trilogy, by Bruce Coville
5. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (TOP 10)
6. Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
7. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (ALL-TIME FAVORITE)
8. The Andelite Chronicles, by K.A. Applegate (NOT A FAVORITE)
9. Mary Called Magdalene, by Margaret George
10. Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
11. The Wayside School collection, by Louis Sachar
12. The Geodyssey Series, by Piers Anthony (NOT A FAVORITE)
13. Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
14. My Life as a Smashed Burrito (with Extra Hot Sauce), by Bill Meyers (NOT A FAVORITE)
15. Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary
16. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
17. The Twenty-one Balloons, by William Pene du Bois (NOT A FAVORITE)
18. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, by Louis Sachar (TOP 5)
19. The Key to the Golden Firebird, by Maureen Johnson
20. Myst, the Book of Atrus, by Rand and Robyn Miller
21. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
22. Knight Life, by Peter David
23. Paper Towns, by John Green (TOP 5)
24. If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino
25. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (TOP 10)
26. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
27. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
28. 1984, by George Orwell (NOT A FAVORITE)
29. Feed, by M.T. Anderson
30. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
31. Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry
32. Messenger, by Lois Lowry
33. Matilda, by Roald Dahl
34. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
35. A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (TOP 10)
36. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
37. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle
38. Jennifer Murdley’s Toad, by Bruce Coville (NOT A FAVORITE)
39. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, by Bruce Coville (NOT A FAVORITE)
40. Holes, by Louis Sachar
41. Spirits and Spells, by Bruce Coville
42. The Eyes of the Tarot, by Bruce Coville
43. I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak (TOP 5)
44. The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson (TOP 10)
45. The Very Ordered Existence of Marilee Marvelous, by Suzanne Crowley
46. 24 Girls in 7 Days, by Alex Bradley
47. Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli
48. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
49. East, by Edith Pattou (CURRENTLY READING)

Next on the list:

Fire Rose, by Mercedes Lackey
The Book of Mordred, by Vivian Vande Velde
The Lost Years of Merlin series, by T.A. Barron

Elementary School Favorites

How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell
Goblins in the Castle, by Bruce Coville

Middle School Favorites

The Cay, by Theodore Taylor
The Xanth series up to Question Quest, by Piers Anthony

High School Favorites

The Myth series up to Sweet Myth-tery of Life, by Robert Asprin
Incarnations of Immortality series, by Piers Anthony
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulghum
The Apprentice Adept trilogy (the first three), by Piers Anthony
The Autobiography of King Henry VIII, by Margaret George
The Ancient One, by T.A. Barron
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams

College Favorites

The Bastard, by John Jakes
When Christ and His Saints Slept, by Sharon Kay Penman
Slaughterhouse V, by Kurt Vonnegut

2009 Favorites

The Smile, by Donna Jo Napoli
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, by Rick Riordan
The Inkworld trilogy, by Cornelia Funke

2010 Favorites

Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende (TOP 10)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan
V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Potential Favorites (or series I haven't finished yet, but will probably be favorites once I do)

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, by Michael Scott
Abarat series, by Clive Barker
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
The Kane Chronicles, by Rick Riordan

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lent Day 18: Nets

The first charity from this year, you may recall, went towards ending malaria. This charity does the same thing, in a specific way. Malaria, we now know, is spread by mosquitoes. Countries where mosquitoes are prevalent need nets over their beds to keep the little vampire bugs away, so this charity--Nothing but Nets--sends nets to places that need them. A ten dollar donation buys one net, so I gave $25 to Nothing but Nets . . . thereby buying . . . two and a half nets? Yeah, okay.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Lent Day 17: Bikes

Today I donated $25 to Pedals for Progress, an organization that provides bikes to people. For some, bicycles are a primary mode of transportation. It would be impractical--to say nothing of bad for the environment--to provide cars as primary transportation, which is one of the reasons I like this organization. Bikes will get you around well enough without being bad for the environment. So to those areas who depend on fast, clean transportation, this organization provides it.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lent Day 16: More Books


Yeah . . . basically, just read my blog from yesterday.

See you Monday!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Lent Day 15: Books

One of my favorite charities is Firstbook. It's one I've talked about a number of times. It gives books to children in need. It provides reading to those who might not have had it available before.

Bookaid does much the same thing. It sends books to Africa for children in need. Every two pounds donated (a little over 3 dollars, US) sends one book . . . which, considering how much we pay for books is a pretty good deal. Books should be accessible. Being literate should not depend on one's economic or ethnic status, and yet sadly, it does. Books go to those who can afford them. Charities like Firstbook and Bookaid bring education, information, and imagination to those who aren't part of that typically well-read minority.

If you're anything like me (ie a Nerdfighter) then you believe in the importance of books and reading. This is why charities such as these are important to me. Today, I donated 24 pounds (roughly $32, US) to Bookaid, which is enough to send 12 books out to children who can't afford them.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lent Day 14: Toys

Having to be in the hospital is no usually no fun for a kid. (Well, I guess it's no fun for an adult either . . . but we're talking about kids here.) Especially when the child is there for an extended stay. Being sick is no fun. Being sick enough to go to the hospital is even less fun. And being sick enough for an extended stay at the hospital is just downright scary.

Child's Play (today's charity) attempts to make that just a little bit easier. Children's hospitals around the US, as well as a few in other parts of the world, have put together wish lists for kids on Amazon . . . toys, games, books, anything to make the child's stay in the hospital a little more bearable. Then people can go to amazon, purchase said items, and have them shipped to the hospital of their choice. It really makes a difference in the lives of kids who feel hopeless and afraid.

I bought a set of markers and play-doh, and paid for the fastest shipping to get to Akron Children's Hospital by tomorrow, a total of some $32. Akron Children's Hospital is closest to my area, and it's also the place that looks after Megan, the student with muscular dystrophy that I tutored last year, whenever she gets sick. Hope whoever is there now enjoys the toys.